The Indianapolis Colts did not draft an outside linebacker in the 2016 draft until the seventh round, when they grabbed Trevor Bates out of Maine.
Not much was known about Bates at the time, but it was pretty clear that one of his biggest strengths was as a pass rusher. That's assumed to be where he will stand the best chance at making the team's roster (the Colts desperately need young help at the position), but Bates also had some very interesting comments about where he might play when talking on Wednesday with FOX Sports 975's Jake Query and Derek Schultz.
Bates listed his quickness, burst, and initial get-off as some of his strengths, and he noted that at Maine he did play some outside linebacker in some of the 3-4 packages despite playing mostly defensive end in their 4-3 system. In other words, Bates said he's used to playing outside linebacker and dropping into coverage, so he's confident in his ability to adjust at the next level.
Query and Schultz asked Bates about what the Colts have told him in regards to where he will play, and the comments were interesting. According to Bates, the Colts will start him at outside linebacker with the intention of moving him to inside linebacker down the road.
"Talking to them after the draft, they definitely see me as an outside linebacker to begin with, and eventually moving back inside," Bates said. "Just to kind of catch up with the speed of the game and get acclimated, I think they want to get me in a familiar position before I make that transition to middle linebacker. Again, it's something that I look forward to and I'm excited to get out there and play football."
I think it was widely expected that Trevor Bates was drafted to be an edge rusher, but it turns out the Colts may have different plans down the road. He might start out by playing outside linebacker and using his natural pass rush ability, but then at some point it sounds like the Colts want to move him inside. Of course, if they are impressed enough with him on the outside then they always could keep him there, so this is subject to change. If they do follow through with their plan, however, it will be worth monitoring to see how that impacts things. The Colts do have a need at inside linebacker, and they soon will have another one as D'Qwell Jackson gets older. Thinking into the future, then, the Colts could be planning on developing Bates into a candidate for one of those spots.
In light of Bates' comments, a tweet from Carlie Irsay showing his draft card looks much more relevant, as it lists him as a MIKE - an inside linebacker.
Congrats Trevor Bates! pic.twitter.com/USOhgQ984N— Carlie Irsay (@cirsay) April 30, 2016
It will definitely be worth monitoring how the Colts use Trevor Bates moving forward, as it sounds like we could see him start out at outside linebacker but then move inside. Both spots could be considered areas of need, so the Colts will likely try to put Bates in the best spot to make the roster and make an impact, both now and down the road.